Ghosts and Other Mysteries

Ghosts and Other Mysteries

The first indication something’s amiss would probably be an empty desk or an office with its lights still off after the work day has begun. Then inevitably someone will ask, “Hey, where’s [name]? Did they call in sick today?” After it’s been established they haven’t, it’s up to human resources to figure out what’s caused the absence. Most wind up without an answer.

Having to track down a missing employee and eventually find someone else to fill their position can be a disruptive process for any company. It’s also one that businesses all over the country have been forced to conduct with some increasing regularity. The rise of a new kind of silent separation trend has left many employers with more questions than answers.

Companies Haunted by Ghosts

Last year, employers across the country reported the widespread growth of a negative workplace trend called ghosting. The term originally applied to the avoidance of bad dates or personal relationships by completely ignoring the person across all channels; meaning social media, phone calls, and all other forms of communication. It’s a bit more of an active process than “the silent treatment,” but it’s essentially similar.

The effects of ghosting on a personal level are well-known to leave the ignored party confused, hurt, and probably irritated at being left without any form of closure. Employers, in this regard, often report similar sentiments in addition to the inconvenience of having an unexpected gap in their rosters.

Near the start of 2019, staffing firm Robert Half reported there had been a “ten to twenty percent increase in ghosting over the past year,” but that figure is still an estimation of a growing trend. Sources from all over the country are stating that employers are being ghosted more than ever before.

Among new applicants, interviewees, and new hires, the numbers reach much higher. USA Today reported that many businesses are seeing between 20 and 50 percent of these individuals turn ghost.

What’s Driving this Trend?

The reasons behind ghosting are fairly comprehensible – if you’re the ghost, that is. It’s a great time to be a job seeker. One could refer to it as an employee’s labor market. Unemployment is at near record lows and lots of different industries are reporting workforce shortages. So, if you’re looking for a job and you’re qualified, chances are you won’t have to look very far or very long.

Combine that with the desire to avoid an awkward conversation or a messy exit and it becomes clear why employees ghost their employers. Why would you want to deal with an exit interview and explain your decisions when you don’t have to? It’s easier just to leave.

Jilted Employers Feel the Chill

While it’s pretty easy to be a ghost, it’s quite the opposite to be ghosted. It’s downright inconvenient. All of a sudden, you’ve got tasks unexpectedly going unfulfilled. There’s now an unplanned gap in your company’s productivity. What are some steps you should take to minimize the impact?

  • Reward employees that have to step up to cover the gap. If another employee is going to have more tasks because someone else bailed, employers should show appreciation for this appropriately.
  • Encourage your staff to speak up when there’s a problem. If you’re not willing to listen, you can expect to get ghosted more often.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; form teams. If you’ve got people in your company who exclusively perform a single function, it would be wise to make them part of a team that can cover those tasks in the absence of that individual.
  • Cross train. When more individuals are familiar with each other’s tasks, you’ll face less gaps if they leave your company.

Also, if you’re experiencing a lot of ghosting among your applicants or new hires, it’s time to take a look at your company from a marketing perspective. Not as in marketing to new clients, but as making a pitch to prospective employees.

  • Hype your company. Your applicants have a lot of options. What stands out about your company? Why would someone want to work there?
  • Evaluate your offerings. You wouldn’t want to be outbid on a potential project. Don’t let yourself be outbid for talent by another company willing to make a better offer.
  • Maintain communication. Keep in touch with your applicants or you may wind up never hearing back from them.
  • Conduct more interviews. As USA Today reported, if nearly half of your applicants have the possibility of becoming ghosts, then you should probably expand your hiring pool with that in mind. Invite more people to interview.
Don’t Be Surprised

The best thing you can do for your company is to be prepared for unexpected employee exits. Assume that ghosting is eventually going to happen, either among a new hire, an applicant, or even a long-time employee, and formulate a contingency plan that preserves workflow. Yes, it’s a pain when an employee ditches your company without notice, but a little bit of foresight should keep your productivity on track.

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